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to move along the shore, and commanded Peter to follow him. This command was not a mere injunction to imitate him, but part of an acted scene, full of instruction. To foreshadow that rugged path of life that Peter was to tread, our Lord began to ascend the steep and rocky shore, and commanded the restored apostle to follow him. Peter, having learned the lesson of obedience by the sad scenes of the past, instantly obeyed him, and rough though the path was, did not refuse to tread it, when he was only following in the footsteps of Jesus.
They had proceeded but a short distance, when hearing a step behind them, Peter turned and saw John, it would seem, also following Jesus. There is something characteristically beautiful in this silent act of the beloved disciple. Jesus had not commanded him to follo, but when he saw Christ go forward, he could not stay behind ; for his heart clung too fondly to both the Master and the disciple, to allow him to remain. It is as if he had said in his heart, The path may be rugged, but where Jesus leads, there I will follow. This is a striking illustration of that deep, silent, loving obedience of John, as contrasted with the unrestrained impulsiveness of Peter. Peter, instead of quietly following Jesus, as he was bidden, looked back, and instead of minding his own footsteps, minded those of John, and asked, Lord, and what shall this man do? Our Lord, in rebuke to this feeling thus expressed, replied, “If I will that he tarry till I come, what is that to thee? Follow thou me."
It is recorded that from this, the saying went forth that John was not to die. The utter uncer. tainty of tradition as a rule of interpreting scripture is most strikingly illustrated here. Tradition interpreted these words of our Lord as an assurance that John would not die, though the tradition was made during the lives of inspired men. So extensive was this error, that it was needful to correct it by inspiration itself. But so tenacious was it, that even this correction did not wholly remove it, for when John did actually die, many believed that his death was not real, but only a trance or sleep, and some said that the earth could be seen moving on his grave, with the gentle breathing of the sleeper below. So wide-spread was this error, that even Augustine, in the fourth century, did not wholly reject it as false. Hence, when the followers of Peter, as they strangely term themselves, in both Rome and Oxford, tell us that we must rely on tradition as the rule by which scripture is to be interpreted, we have only to point to the scene in Galilee to show that, by the testimony of scripture itself, tradition is fallacious, for even among inspired men and in a single generation it had so widely erred as to require a
special revelation to correct it. If under such fa. vourable circumstances it could not be trusted, how utterly untrustworthy must it be when it reaches us through fifty generations of superstition and error ?
There are two things that arrest our attention in this scene: the question, and the answer. I. The question, “Lord, and what shall this man do?"
In the Greek, the words "shall do” are not found, and the question is simply “Lord, but this man, what ?” That is, How shall it be with him ? How shall he die? Shall it be as I am to die? That this is his meaning, appears plainly from the reply of Jesus. He had just told Peter that his life must be one of obedience through scenes of suffering, and his death one of violence. When he saw John following, he presumed that our Lord would also declare how it would be with him, and hence asked the question.
What were the precise motives of Peter in asking this question, we do not certainly know, but we may infer that they were not exactly right, since the answer of our Lord was a refusal in the form of a rebuke. We inay conjecture several possible motives.
1. A momentary pang of repining. As our Lord lifted the veil from the future to Peter, and showed him the dark and rugged path before him, a path of toil and trial whose end was tinged with
blood, we do not wonder that Peter felt a recoil from the prospect. When he turned then to the beloved John, and thought that perhaps no such path was marked for him, the thought may have entered the mind of Peter, that his case was a hard one, and that John also ought to be made to share this lot. His feeling was, “Am I to be singled out thus for suffering ? Are there no words of sad revelation also to him? How is it to be with him in life and in death ?” The affilicted know but too well the nature of this feeling. When some great blow has made the heart sad and the home silent, it is not without a pang that the eye can look on those who have not been thus stricken. As the lonely mourner passes along the streets, and sees in the twilight the glow of the evening fires, and hears the sound of happy voices around the hearth, the thought of his solitary chamber, his cheerless home, and his gloomy heart, will come back upon him with a bitter intensity; he will contrast his lonely sadness with their bright joy, and remember that he perhaps was yet more faithful than they in the discharge of duty. And the query will rise, Why are others exempt, whilst I suffer? Why should I be singled out as a target for the arrows of the Almighty? So it may have been with Peter in thus contrasting his rugged lot with that of John. The feeling, however, was wrong. If it be Christ's will that Peter should suffer and John escape, that will was right, and to be quietly borne. But the fact that John was not to suffer as Peter did, was no proof that he was not to suffer at all. He did suffer, and if Peter was called to a violent death, he was called to an earlier entrance into heaven than the beloved apostle who was left to linger to a feeble old age on earth. Thus is it in the distribution of earthly sorrows. They are not only according to the will of Christ, but they are much more equally distributed than we suppose. There are counterbalancings to both
joy and sorrow on earth, by which the result of human happiness, in the case of the true children of God, is made in the end to be equalized in a wonderful manner.
2. Mere Curiosity. Peter was probably a devoted friend of John. They were townsmen ; perhaps partners in business ; were associated in some of the most remarkable events of the life of our Lord; were together in the Judgment Hall; and came together to the grave. Hence Peter may, from mere affectionate curiosity, have desired to know what was in reserve for one whom he so much loved.
This feeling is also a very natural one, and often indulged. As we look on the little babe that nestles in our arms, we long to forecast its future, to know whether it will live, and if so, what shall